Purdy-ing Up the Chicken Yard – Again

Remember when I decided to make the chicken yard pretty last year?  Well I’m at it again.  This time I went with planters that are up high and out of ‘chicken reach’ so they should be pretty safe.

I didn’t want to spend a lot for this little project since it is just a chicken yard and I am a self-proclaimed bargainista, but I still wanted it to be cute.  I’d seen wall planters made of various materials and realized they were just simple pockets of fabric.  I’m not a sewer so I brainstormed what might provide an inexpensive, already sewn fabric pocket.  Then the light bulb went off – a fabric shoe organizer!

I snagged this one at Fred Meyer for around $10.  I only needed 4 pockets but I figured it the idea panned out I could always make more for other spots too.  It was an added bonus that it was a cool grey fabric rather than the typical canvas ones I’ve seen that would show dirt immediately.

Luckily each row was exactly 4 pockets!  I cut off one row, leaving the seam and trim at the bottom.  From there I cut down the center of the stitching on the trim between each pocket to create 4 individual pockets.

I filled each with dirt and a plant while on skype with my mom on a sunny afternoon and then recruited the Hubs to help me hang them.  We folded over the top section of fabric for a bit more strength and just screwed them into the post using deck screws.

Although the screws are noticeable from the side angle, they blend in when you look at the planters from the front of the yard which is the typical way they will be seen.  Plus as the plants grow they should help hide them even more.  Hopefully they will have enough time to really fill in and start to trail over before the season wraps.

I also decided to give the block planters at the bottom of the posts another try.  The canvas curtains I made last summer didn’t survive well so this time we used scrap clear panels left over from building the green house.  It keeps the sight lines open for both the cluckers and the dogs, but prevents the chickens from decimating the plants.

The chickens were not to pleased with this innovation and kept trying to  peck at the leaves through the plastic!  They eventually gave up and went on about their clucking business elsewhere in the yard.  This time around I filled the blocks with mint, transplanted from the rain garden where it ended up after being in the herb container 2 summers ago.  Those who have grown mint, know it is super hardy so it can take some tough love, will return year after year and should spread to fill in a bit more.  I will have to watch that it doesn’t spread out from the blocks but it’s easy enough to remove if I catch it early so I’m not to worried.  Plus it will help keep things smelling pretty – because this is a chicken yard and there is always a constant supply of “fertilizer”!

Because we used scrap panels each is a bit different size so the panels don’t all line up with each other.  It doesn’t really bother me in person but looking at this image I really notice it.  If it still bugs me in a few weeks I’ll have the hubs cut the two larger ones down to match.

I put another clear panel on the front of the yard and added marigolds there for a bit of color.  Now if I could just get that darn walkway covered with gravel like I’ve been planning this space might start to really look complete.  Hopefully that will happen before the end of the season, but if not it will be on the list again next summer. 🙂

Herb Rack Update

I promised to provide an update on our indoor herb planter once we got some real plants in it, which proved to a be a bit more difficult than I anticipated.  It took a while to find what I was looking for at the various stores in town and then several of the plants didn’t do well so I replaced them.  As you can see below that still didn’t keep a few of the plants from failing again.

I think they just weren’t getting enough full or direct sun to thrive.  There were a few that seemed to do ok.  The bay plant did pretty well and the sweet basil did better than the spicy basil.

After replacing several of the plants 2-3 times I gave up deciding that the location just wasn’t getting enough light for herbs.  I moved the remaining viable plants outside on the deck to a raised planter (which you may remember from last season) so they are still nearby for use when cooking or grilling, but stay out of reach of the dogs.

They seem to be doing pretty well out here, and both varieties of oregano have grown since I moved them out here.  The basil and bay have stayed about the same, I think just from the shock of transplant.

I’m a little bummed that the indoor option didn’t work out as I was pretty excited about having fresh herbs all year long, but I’ll be sure to preserve some of these so they can be used throughout the winter instead.  I’ve already got a new plan for the space in the dining room where the rack was – but I’ll have to wait until after our trip back east this fall to put it together.  I’ll be sure to share that once I do.  In the meantime I’ve filled the rack with faux succulents left over from another project since all the IKEA plants are now in use in other spots.  Find me on Instagram to see how it looks today.

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Getting FLOR’ed in the Master

I’ve been wanting a rug in our Master Bedroom since the day we moved in almost 4 years ago.  But I was in no hurry to disassemble our large captain’s style bed to put one down underneath of it.  Luckily reading another blogger’s post about creating an area rug with FLOR carpet squares sparked an idea – why not create a rug AROUND the bed using carpet squares?!  I posed the idea to the Hubs and he was on board so we figured out how much material we needed, selected a pattern and had them shipped to my mother-in-law’s house due to Alaska shipping costs.

 

The Hubs drew out a diagram for the layout and put them together one afternoon while I was out with photography clients.  He said it went together relatively quickly and easily.  You just line everything up using the markings on the back of the tiles to keep the pattern flowing correctly and then connect them in each corner with the adhesive squares FLOR provides.

You only notice the seems if you look really closely, which I’m pretty sure no one who is in our bedroom does.  😉  I LOVE the traditional neutral coloring in the pattern we picked out because it will go with so many things, even if I change up the colors in this space in the future.

We also bought enough extra tiles to create a runner in the closet over the crawlspace access panel.  We haven’t added the adhesive corners to this set up just yet, as we’re still trying to decide the best placement for a break in the joints so it’s easy to move when we do access the crawlspace.

But even without the adhesive corners it stays together pretty well and looks good.  Plus it’s nice and soft under foot, which I appreciate when I’m getting dressed in the mornings.

We’ve still got a little stash of extra tiles just in case we ever need to replace one, but the best thing about these are that if one gets stained you can pop it out and wash it in the sink!  That’s the perfect choice for a household full of pets like ours.

I’m loving the look so much that I’m considering ordering more to do a rug around the guest bed as well and perhaps in the main living area where I currently have a large outdoor rug just inside the slider to the backyard!  But those can both be projects for our long cold Alaskan winters.  I’d love to hear what you think of the new look, so leave me a comment!

Garden Art Refresh with Spray Paint

My sister and I hit the Palmer Garden & Art Faire while she was here visiting and got in a bit of browsing (and shopping) before the rain let loose.  I’ll share some of those finds soon but today I wanted to show you some quick updates I did to other pieces of garden art.

The first is Mr. Froggy.  I’ve had him for ages and adore him to pieces but he was looking pretty worn from his many seasons in the garden.  While I loved his coloring I knew I wouldn’t be able to recreate something similar with my painting skills and honestly didn’t have a lot of extra time to give him a makeover.  So I picked up some textured spray paint to give him a simple neutral stone look.

It took a couple coats and he’s still not perfect, but he’s looking much better.  He looks rather handsome in my flower bed this year next to a big piece of driftwood as the flowers slowly encroach around him.

The second piece is this artichoke shaped finial I snagged at the thrift store over the winter for a couple bucks.  It’s SUPER heavy so at least it will hold up to the dogs on the deck, but the color was pretty blah.  I dug through our paint cabinet and found some simple grey, which gave it a nice updated look.

I’m still not super crazy about it so it may still see another paint job for a different look – perhaps a little ORB to make it look cast iron, but for now it looks pretty nice next to the pots on the deck.  I’d love to hear what you think about both make-overs!

DIY Compost Bins

Part of our green house project was creating a compost system to supply nutrient rich fertilizer for our crops.  After a bit of Pinterest browsing, I came across an idea that used plastic barrels raised on a stand so they could be filled, rotated and emptied easily.  I showed the picture to the Hubs and he whipped me up these.

I placed them right behind the green house where they get full sun exposure and there’s extra room for the stand supports. Although they currently sit on a slight incline I plan to remedy that when I add gravel around the green house so that they sit level.

The design is fairly simple.  He cut a panel door in the side of the barrels and created holes for the metal rod to go through the center of each barrel.  In a stroke of genius he added a weight to the opposite side of the barrel from the door so that the hardware wouldn’t cause the barrel to always rest with the door upside down.  He also added several large bolts that protrude into the barrel from the outside to help with the mixing process when it’s spun.

I’m still figuring out the right ratios of brown and green material and haven’t been great about keeping it damp to aid in the break down, but it also hasn’t been very warm here this summer so I’m not sure that if I had I would see much difference.  Luckily there’s never a shortage of material to add to the bins so we’ll continue the trial and error method with a bit of research until I get it just right.

If you compost I’d love to hear your tips and tricks both for cultivating the pile and using the resulting material in your garden!  Leave me a comment with what works or what doesn’t for you – it might just be something that helps me decrease this learning curve. 🙂

Updates to the Chicken Coop

Today I’m sharing a few quick updates I did in the chicken yard recently.  Last summer the cluckers kept creating holes along the wood of their run to take their dirt baths.  I’d seen the idea of creating a dirt bath spot with a tire and figured we’d give it a shot.  I pulled a small tire from the top of the rain garden wall since I plan to revamp that next season anyway and added it underneath their hen house.  I filled it with sand so it’s easy for them to flick up on their wings.  I haven’t seen anyone using it yet, but it’s obviously gotten traffic based on the foot prints and feathers so I guess it’s a hit.

I kind of wish I’d painted the outside of the tire so it looks a little nicer, but perhaps I’ll pull it out when I get to painting the rest of the coop later this season, then refill it.  I’ve still got more sand to spread inside the coop run so I can use the sand already in it to get that started.

The second project was finishing a small paver area in front of the coop door.  This area gets super muddy during the spring due to the run off from the roof and the dirt splashes up onto the door and other wood.  I figured pavers would reduce some of that and luckily I had a stack of pavers left over from another project just sitting around.

The pavers didn’t fit the space exactly, so I just filled the gap with rocks from around the chicken yard that needed to be gathered anyway.  It seems to be working well to provide a bit of drainage when it rains and it’s easy to sweep off or scrape when mud gets tracked across the pavers and gathers.

I’ve also tilled the run a couple of times this season trying to improve the drainage but we’ve discovered that the dirt under the coop is mixed with large chunks of wood and rocks from when the builder cleared the lot to build.  Eventually we may have to dig the whole area out a couple of feet down and replace it all with a mix of fresh top soil and sand, but that’s a project for another summer.

I’ve considered adding growing frames in their yard where I could plant grass under chicken wire for them, but since we shovel the run in the winter I’m thinking they would be more of a hassle than they are worth during the growing season.  I have a large metal pallet that I may add to the yard against the wall with small potted plants they could enjoy pecking instead.  I imagine I could rotate the pots higher when they need a break from constant pecking to regrow.  I may get that project going this season if I find pots and hooks to hold them on sale, but if not we’ll try it next season with seeds I save from this year’s crops.

Hopefully the weather and schedules will be more cooperative this fall so I can pressure wash the whole coop and get a fresh coat of paint on it in a single day.  Then it will be ready for another winter of snow and ice.  Luckily the cluckers aren’t too concerned with how their space looks so long as there’s plenty of things to peck at. 😉

Revamping the Deck

One of the biggest projects we tackled during May and June was updating our deck with a new Trex top.  The pressure treated boards the builder had used to top our deck were already starting to look very worn and since we are building a second new deck on the other end of the house this summer we wanted them both to match.  The Hubs researched quite a few materials and decided on Trex both for the ability to be shipped to Alaska in the quantities we needed and it’s reviews.

He started at the outside of the deck, removing the old boards and replacing them with the new Trex, section by section.  It was slow going getting the 20′ boards up and making sure all the nails and screws were out so the Trex had a flat surface to attach to.

The dogs were quite intrigued by this process and kept coming outside to check on the progress.  That is until we got to the last section next to the house, which made using the doggy door a bit more difficult than usual.

Tequila wasn’t sure what to do when she realized there wasn’t a solid surface outside the door other than the single board we had to pry out from the trim.  She kept looking out the door and considering the options.

Eventually she decided to give it a try and gingerly worked her way out onto the ledge before jumping between the deck joists and scurrying under the deck frame to get to the yard.

The Trex boards have the special little fasteners that also act as spacers to keep the deck uniform and allow for a gap for water to drain out.  They slide into a little groove on the side of the boards and are then screwed into place on the joists.

Here’s a look at the spacer/fastener from the side so you can see the little track they slide into.

We ran into a bit of a snafu when he got closer to the house and realized the frame of the deck wasn’t square, so the boards weren’t lining up on either side of the deck.  Rather than re-do the whole deck we opted to work with the frame as is lining up one side and trimming the boards that hung over too much on the other end to match the others.  It worked out pretty good and I doubt anyone will ever even notice the difference unless they are really looking for it.  Here’s the finished deck before I added all the potted plants and other yard decor.  It looks so great and is a perfect extension of the colors of our floors inside.

The darker color provides a nice backdrop for the new deck rugs I got this season!  I’ve got a matching one for the new deck which is under construction right now.  I plan to paint the sides of the frame white for contrast once the other deck is done so I can do them at the same time.

I have a plan to reuse some of the old deck boards for another project and the Hubs may use some for a bit of the framing on the new deck so they won’t be going to waste. I’ll share those projects once they are completed. The vision we had for the yard when we moved in 4 years ago is starting to become more and more a reality and I couldn’t be more excited to get it all done and enjoy it!